Missing Chinese Journalist Resurfaces

A Chinese journalist who spent three years in prison, feared missing after he failed to show up to deliver a keynote address at a Hong Kong media conference, has resurfaced in Beijing and apologized for his disappearance.

HONG KONG—“I am grateful to everyone for their concern. I will apologize to the conference organizers,” Beijing-based New York Times researcher and Chinese investigative reporter Zhao Yan said in a telephone interview from his home in Beijing.

Chinese authorities didn’t try to interfere with his appearance in Hong Kong, he said.

Zhao, who was initially accused of “revealing state secrets” and then jailed for fraud after The New York Times correctly predicted the retirement of then president Jiang Zemin, was released from prison in September 2007.

He traveled to the United States last month and was scheduled to speak at a May 1-3 conference co-hosted by the Hong Kong Journalists' Association, International PEN, and other media groups. Hong Kong media described him last week as “missing,” and friends feared he had been abducted or detained.

“During my travels, I lost my cell phone, my clothes, and a notebook containing phone numbers. So I was unable to contact the conference organizers. I have a poor memory. I couldn’t remember the telephone numbers. I am sorry,” he said.

Others were turned away

“I am most concerned with enacting a law on press freedom,” Zhao said, asked what he had planned to discuss at the conference. “Without legal protection, it would be inconvenient for journalists to exercise their rights to freedom of speech. That’s what I would have talked about. China now has one of the world’s top four GDPs. Not having a law to protect its journalists is inconsistent with [China's] status as a major power.”

Another key conference participant was in fact barred from entering Hong Kong, sparking concerns that the territory's protected freedoms of expression and association are being eroded under Beijing's tightening controls ahead of the Olympic Games.

Immigration officials in Hong Kong turned away Sweden-based Zhang Yu, secretary-general of the writers’ group Independent Chinese Pen Center.

Zhang told the conference by telephone that he was left stranded in immigration at Hong Kong's Chek Lap Kok airport while conference organizers tried to persuade officials to admit him.

Zhang has traveled to Hong Kong several times but has never been denied entry in the past. Finally, Zhang was forced to take another flight out of Hong Kong after negotiations were unsuccessful, he said.

In the same week, Hong Kong also denied entry to a Danish sculptor who planned to help with a monument commemorating the 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square.

Jens Galschiot was turned away on arrival in Hong Kong, at the invitation of the Hong Kong Association for Supporting Democracy in China.

He had been planning to rededicate his work “Pillar of the Demise of a Nation” on the Hong Kong University campus by repainting it orange. But Galschiot was put on a plane back to London by immigration officials despite interventions by Hong Kong lawmaker Albert Ho.

Original reporting by Xin Yu for RFA’s Mandarin service. Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Edited and produced in English by Sarah Jackson-Han.

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